I have been reviewing chapters from Paul Pruyser’s classic work of pastoral theology, The Minister as Diagnostician. That it was published in 1976 and is still readily available in print says a lot about how valuable the ideas are that he presents.
The heart of the book is a discussion of seven diagnostic variables that can be in the mind of pastors as they talk with parishioners, and as they reflect on their own life. The words ‘diagnostic variable’ sound very clinical. Pruyser was a clinical psychologist. But he wanted pastors to stop pretending to be psychologists themselves and use ideas from their own discipline of theology. People seek out pastors, after all, because they want to see their lives interpreted in a religious or theological light.
Here are the seven variables:
- Awareness of the Holy. What fills me with awe? What would I sacrifice myself for?
- Providence. What is the divine purpose toward me?
- Faith. Do I embrace life or shrink from it?
- Grace or gratefulness. Where is kindness in my life? Where is forgiveness? Is there a gracious spirit in my living?
- Repenting. What do I regret? How do I want to change?
- Communion. Am I embedded with others, or estranged from them?
- Vocation. What is my life’s purpose in my remaining years?
It’s not a matter of asking directly, “Tell me about your awareness of the Holy.” It’s more the art of having these ideas in mind as you go about your pastoral work and letting them shape your thinking about people’s lives, as well as your own life. I find these seven ideas very useful to have in mind, and it’s been good to refresh my memory of them.